Was Nathan Hale Here?


This plaque is on the Banana Republic near my house. It's the first bronze plaque I've seen with a URL. It was put up 110 years after a researcher at the NY Historical Society determined that Hale was hanged near this spot in September 1776. The British Army camp where he was executed sat in front of The Sign of The Dove, a tavern on the Old Post Road, at the five-mile marker. Or, as it's known now, 3rd Avenue at 66th street.

Hale's dying words, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country," are part of the American Revolution's historical fabric. But I'm sure not one Banana Republican in a thousand knows they're shopping at the spot where Hale uttered them.

This comment in the Times reminded me of the plaque: "'[A memorial at the WTC site is] trying to remember something on the very ground where it happened.'" It is faced with an "inescapable specificity...meaning that people died here."

I fear--and the WTC memorial finalist designs make me even more certain--that a memorial centered on the twin towers' footprints marks precisely the wrong thing: the buildings, not the people. I hope it won't take 200 years for future historians to realize this error.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: November 22, 2003.

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